The case for Sister Megan Rice; recommended sentence is 5 yrs, 10 mos to 7 years, 3 mos


Sister Megan Rice, left, with co-defendant Michael Walli on Sept. 12, 2012, at the Catholic Worker in Washington, D.C. Rice’s wrists were in casts because of a fall during her release following the initial set of charges for the 2012 break-in at Y-12. (photo by Mary Finnerty)

The recommended sentence against Sister Megan Rice, the Catholic nun who at age 82 traversed a ridge in the middle of the night and, along with two co-activists, broke into the inner-most sanctum of the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant and vandalized federal property, is 70 to 87 months. Her sentencing is set for the morning of Jan. 28.

As have the other defendants in the internationally followed case, Rice — who turns 84 years old this month — is seeking a lighter-than-recommended sentence for her conviction on felony charges of sabotage and depredation of government property related to the July 28, 2012 break-in at Y-12.

In a motion filed Jan. 14, Rice’s attorney, Francis Lloyd, said the sentencing for the nun “differs greatly” from other cases that follow the federal sentencing guidelines that are based on the seriousness of the crime to promote respect for the law and to protect the public from further crimes by the defendant.

“The Defendant Megan Rice is 83 years old, and has served most of her life as a sister of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus, a Roman Catholic order,” the motion states.

“Her conduct in this case was motivated by her unshakeable conviction, based on her studied and devoted understanding of Christian principles of nonviolence, that nuclear weaponry is inescapably evil. Megan Rice has been open throughout this case about her affiliation with the Plowshares Movement. Like-minded individuals in this movement have engaged in similar expressive conduct in the past, and no doubt will do so in the future.”

Here’s an additional part of the argument for a lighter sentence: “As the evidence at trial showed, Megan Rice nd her co-defendants were completely nonviolent when they were arrested. They used the occasion to present symbolically their passion for nuclear disarmament.”

The motion said the seriousness of the act does not match up with the seriousness of the charge in which the three were charged and convicted. According to the defendant’s filing, the federal charges do not recognize the difference between spray-painted biblical references that nations “shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruninghooks” and tossing a Molotov cocktail.

“The conduct that led to the convictions in this case was, of course, mostly trespass and graffiti, and nothing to do with explosives,” the motion states.

It concluded: “The requirements of promotion of respect for the law and just punishment therefore do not require even the advisory Guidelines terms of imprisonment in Megan Rice’s case. This elderly individual, committed unreservedly to her moral convictions, and possessed of wisdom gain through long experience and contemplation, has already been behind bars for months. The world has seen the law upheld through her incarceration. Additional imprisonment, especially to the extent recommended by the advisory Guidelines calculation in her case, would exceed the mandate . . .”

Federal prosecutors have argued that the defendants should not be shown any leniency.

Thousands of letters and postcards and petition signatures and messages have been submitted to the U.S. District Judge Amul R. Thapar, who has presided in the case and will conduct the sentencing later this month.

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About Frank Munger

Senior Writer Frank Munger covers the Dept. of Energy's Oak Ridge facilities and many related topics — nuclear weapons, nuclear waste and other things nuclear, environmental cleanup and science of all sorts. Atomic City Underground is, first and foremost, a news blog, but there's room for analysis, opinion and random thoughts that have no place else to go.